Back in time for TV: 1980 

4 September 2019 tbs.pm/69602

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One reason I’ve enjoyed Back in Time For TV is because I’ve been introduced to programmes I would never otherwise have heard of or considered watching. I’ve not really explored the 1980s as much as the previous couple of decades and am unsure what I’ll find as I go on. This first visit has been a mixture of a couple of programmes I’ve loved, while I’ve found some slightly dull. I’m curious whether I will discover a love for a variety of 1980s’ shows over the next decade, or if I’ll still be happy to return to the 1960s and ’70s.

This week my ITV programmes are coming from Yorkshire and Granada.

21st July
The Sandbaggers ‘Who Need Enemies’
Yorkshire

 

I visited 1980 a day earlier than planned so that I could catch both the penultimate and final episodes of this programme. I’ve become a fan of The Sandbaggers over recent months after several people recommended it to me based on my love of Callan. I would describe Sandbaggers as a cross between Callan and Yes, Minister. While we do see the department’s agents or ‘Sandbaggers’ out on secret espionage operations, the show is just as much about what is going on within the government offices. We see plenty of political scheming as civil servants attempt to manipulate both friend and foe. I’m already looking forward to a rewatch because I’ve so enjoyed the programme’s characters and can’t wait to go back and reassess them.

Central to them all is Neil Burnside, Director of Operations for the Secret Intelligence Service and in charge of the Sandbaggers. He’s also known as D Ops to SIS because this show positively adores abbreviations and acronyms. As a former Sandbagger himself, Burnside is valued for his operational experience while now occupying a managerial role, but it does mean he tends to clash with other civil servants who have spent their lives behind desks.

Burnside has shown himself to be stubborn and arrogant at times. I’ve liked that he doesn’t always get to prove his superiors wrong nor have everything go his way, with it adding to the programme’s realism. I wasn’t actually sure if I liked Burnside for a long time. This was a new experience for me – even for an antihero. There are several similarities between Burnside and Callan; both seem to thrive under stress, have few friends and keep themselves rather emotionally cut off. Despite The Sandbaggers starting a decade later, the Cold War is still supplying ample background for plots and both Callan’s Section and the Sandbaggers get called on for dirtier, slightly less official jobs. But Callan seems to reveal more of the man through his inner conflict with what he does. I felt like I’d got to know him within a few episodes and I liked him.

I remember thinking Burnside had done some very nasty things early on. He intimidated people and was definitely responsible for unnecessary deaths. It’s only as the show has progressed (this is the penultimate episode of the third and final series) that I have begun to feel I have a better understanding of him. He’s an interesting man who doesn’t dare stop working for fear he’ll have time to dwell on his past. Unlike the borderline-alcoholic Callan, Burnside doesn’t drink at all, which he’s previously said is because he never knows when he might be called upon to make a life or death type of decision. In this episode someone argues it’s actually because he doesn’t like losing control.

Burnside’s teetotal status means that The Sandbaggers gives a startling amount of publicity to Coca-Cola. There are plenty of cans seen in the show and it’s all we ever see him drink in bars. I was pleased by the latter, solely because I get frustrated with non-drinkers only ever seeming to order orange juice in television pubs. Burnside just tends to frequent bars when he’s meeting other civil servants at their clubs. Instead, he often meets the CIA’s London chief, Ross, for a McDonald’s. Although the chain had been established in the United States for a while, it had only had a UK presence for a few years, so this could have been many viewers’ first glimpse of one.

Secret service heads can apparently live off Coke, burgers and Benson and Hedges Gold cigarettes. When I began watching The Sandbaggers, I wasn’t sure of its broadcast dates and so much of its style struck me as leaning towards the 1980s. But its late 1970s’ start is evident most for me through the amount of smoking in the series. Burnside himself is a heavy smoker but he’s far from the only one. It seems surprising to still find his top Sandbagger, Willie Caine, smoking (he’s an Embassy man), despite the fact his job means he’s supposed to keep himself in top physical condition. When I was working my way through the 1960s, smoking seemed to be everywhere and there was still a fair amount during the 1970s, yet things were changing. After barely altering throughout the 1960s, the amount of people smoking had started to drop steeply during the 1970s. While The Sandbaggers’ smoky offices may still be realistic for 1980, the majority of British people no longer smoked. I don’t think anyone had noticed through the fog though. Burnside does attempt to give up in one episode, providing some small comic relief as he lasts about an hour.

In ‘Who Needs Enemies’, Burnside has been earmarked for a change of job, marketed to him as a sideways promotion to head up the intelligence station in Spain. It is of course just a means to try to get him out of the way.

He seems to be struggling to see how he can get out of this and at one stage goes for a long late night walk. This gives us a chance for some great views of London. The series always manages to convey its packed bustling nature, often showing how the characters can successfully blend into the crowd. Burnside doesn’t quite do it well enough this night and ends up in hospital after being beaten up and mugged. I wondered if he had let this happen on purpose as part of some plan to avoid going to Spain, but apparently not – he was simply so lost in his thoughts of hopelessness that he put up no fight.

For me, this episode emphasised Burnside’s loneliness. He’s divorced and his life revolves around his job, purposefully leaving no time for anything else. Willie and Ross are the closest people he has to friends. Willie is in Spain investigating the station chief’s death for much of the episode and although they were once Sandbaggers together, Burnside is able to use their now-separate levels to keep things from Willie. The UK and US are very much shown to pool resources throughout the series, but not everything is shared. While Ross does actually end up helping Burnside’s cause in this episode, he has fallen out with Ross before and knows he can’t completely trust him.

Possibly my favourite moment in the episode is a speech from Burnside’s secretary, Mary. She’s played by Sue Holderness, best known for her role as Marlene in Only Fools and Horses, so I was initially taken back by her rather posh voice. Mary is the second secretary Burnside has had and although it can be a small role in some episodes, the show has done well to develop both into actual characters.

Here, Mary confronts Burnside with all his naked faults. “I’ve liked the job because although you put on a pretence of being made of steel, it was quite obvious from early on that you aren’t. The things that you regard as signs of strength are actually the symptoms of weakness. You’re frightened of the effects of alcohol so you don’t drink. You’re frightened of emotional commitment so you live a life like a monk. And because you’re frightened of failure you drive yourself harder than is either necessary or useful.” No one has ever been so honest with Burnside and Mary points out, “People avoid contact with you because they’re beginning to be afraid of you, and you’re getting left out in the cold. You see people when they come into this office but I see them on their way out. You can’t live like that – not for very long anyway.” Burnside simply stares straight ahead throughout. He doesn’t look stern and he doesn’t look in control. He just looks a bit lost. The idea that this cold, hard SIS officer might crack is an interesting one.

22nd July
Dallas ‘Act of Love’
BBC-2

 

I am aware that Dallas was big, both in its native US and in the UK. I originally thought it was a drama, which it is, of sorts, but after viewing this episode I think it’s more accurate to describe it as a soap opera.

Dallas follows the Ewing family, who are in the oil business. The elder Ewing has taken a step back and his two sons, Bobby and JR, now look after the day-to-day running of things. There are hints of rivalry between the brothers so I’m sure there is plenty of opportunity for backstabbing. Both brothers are married, then there is the elder Mrs Ewing and a younger teenage Ewing. I couldn’t quite work out the exact relationship of this youngest one and she mainly seemed to appear in scenes so she could complain about not having her own car.

The popularity of Dallas had always made me assume it must all be full of exciting drama but that really is not the case. Among this episode’s plotlines is that Bobby’s wife has been offered a promotion with the chance to go to Paris Fashion Show with work, but Bobby needs her to help host some businessmen at the family ranch. She tries to keep it from him while she decides what to do. The conclusion feels a bit of an anticlimax as Bobby realises what it means for her.

I found JR and his wife, Sue Ellen, more interesting as they are both seeing other people, although this only got better towards the end of the episode. Sue Ellen’s bit on the side seems like a genuine relationship that has developed as we see them spend time together, talking and walking. JR on the other hand has disguised a few days away with a younger model as a business trip, effectively screwing over both Sue Ellen and Bobby. JR rushes back when he gets a phone call from Sue Ellen telling him she’s pregnant.

Despite all the initial smiles and delight, when they’re alone it’s apparent he has doubt over whether the baby is his. They’ve been together for seven years with no children. Sue Ellen marvellously replies, “I’ve been as faithful to this marriage as you have.” With Ewing Oil in need of an heir, she knows she’s got him by the balls.

I could probably watch more Dallas if the focus was weighted more in favour of JR and Sue Ellen. As it was, I found the first two thirds of the episode pretty dull. With an hour-long slot, this soap format is too lengthy for my taste unfortunately. I can certainly see the appeal though – the greater sets and location filming combined with the evident wealth of the Ewings make Dallas a very different sort of soap to Crossroads, Coronation Street or Emmerdale Farm.

23rd July
Coronation Street
Granada

 

I haven’t watched any Coronation Street with Back in Time For TV since 1963 and thanks to ITV3’s repeats my next pickup point for the soap is 1986. It meant I found this episode an odd mixture of characters I knew from both the past and the near future.

I was astounded to still see Annie Walker behind the bar in The Rovers Return, even if she does seem to spend more time in the back of the pub as a manager now, rather than chatting with the patrons out front as she had in the 1960s. The Rovers has a partition of sorts up by 1986, which seems a pain to film around, but that hasn’t gone up yet. The separate snug where my favourite early character, Ena Sharples, could previously be found has gone though.

Gail and a pre-mullet Brian Tilsley are quietly house hunting but struggling to find anywhere they can afford. They are secretive when chatting in The Rovers. They are looking because Gail is pregnant and I initially wondered whether the two of them were actually married yet, but I think they probably are. Brian’s mother, Ivy (with some shocking orange hair), is a traditional Catholic and would have been far more angry. They are currently living with her and though I wouldn’t have questioned it a couple of decades earlier, I found myself pondering how common this still was for young married couples at the time. Perhaps the inflation of the 1970s had again made it harder for couples to afford anywhere.

Another character taking in lodgers is Hilda Ogden. Today Eddie Yeats is moving in. This seems to have been Hilda’s decision, with her husband Stan not expressing a great deal of enthusiasm. I’m fond of Mrs Ogden and as Stan had passed away by 1986, it was good to see them together. Coronation Street seems to get plenty of humour from her and as this lighter aspect is one of the reasons I keep returning to the show, I was glad to notice that there seemed plenty of potential with the Ogdens and the jovial Eddie.

 

24th July
Last of the Summer Wine ‘Deep in the Heart of Yorkshire’
BBC-1

 

It’s definitely a bit odd that I’ve managed to avoid watching such a long running sitcom as Last of the Summer Wine. It has been somewhere in the background and on permanent repeats on UK Gold/GOLD. Despite getting introduced to several sitcoms from that channel, there was nothing especially that appealed to me about LOTSW and no one has ever said, “You really must watch it.” I did think it was time I gave it a go though.

From what I can gather, the programme follows three older men and what they get up to in rural Yorkshire. In this episode, they’re hanging out in the forest up some trees (I’ve known old men with stranger hobbies) when they think they spot a glimpse of their friend from the local caff creeping about. After visiting the caff and spilling the beans that he’s having an affair to his wife, they hang out in the pub for a bit before going back and waiting out by a fire. It emerges he isn’t having an affair, but him and some other blokes are dressing up as cowboys and Indians, preparing for a village fair.

The episode felt like it had a rather slow, relaxed pace and I wasn’t sure initially but eventually decided this was alright. I’ve mentioned before that people used to look older and therefore I feel like I’m taking a stab in the dark to guess the characters’ ages. Anything from 45 to 65 seems valid, but regardless of the actors actual ages, I’m inclined to believe that the characters are supposed to be retired. If not, this is just a random Saturday out as the events all seem to happen on a single day.

Very little actually happens but I enjoyed the central characters of Foggy, Clegg and Compo. The relationship comes across as real for me because a lot of the time two of them are making a joke out of the third. Foggy is the more dignified of the three, while Compo is a complete scruffbag. Clegg manages to sway well between the two. All three also take great joy in taking the piss out of their friend from the caff and this sort of good-natured behaviour is the top sign of friendship as far as I’m concerned. Meandering around the countryside for adventures with stop-offs in the caff or the pub is a pretty decent way to spend old age I think.

25th July
I Didn’t Know You Cared ‘A Tip Top Day’
BBC-1

 

I hadn’t heard of this show that I’m hesitant to call a sitcom, and wish I still hadn’t. One point of interest in the cast was Liz Smith, who I only otherwise know as Nana from The Royle Family.

We’re several series into the programme and start the episode with three generations of Yorkshire men sat talking in the living room. I felt it showed a lot of promise in these early scenes and liked much of the oldest man’s commentary like: “All this violence and squalor and obsession with sex. Why do we have to have it rammed down us throats every night on’t telly? Good god – we see enough of it in our own home!”

The youngest man, Carter, is married and when his wife comes in she says they need to be looking at ways to better themselves. She wants to move on as they are both now “young executives” and should be living the lifestyle of them. Carter has inherited his father and grandfather’s resistance to change though, replying, “I don’t want to better meself. I’m happy as I am. I like being bloody miserable.”

With three generations apparently under the same roof, it must be a tight squeeze. From this episode I gathered that the husband’s wife has taken up a fancy man and we meet this odd little fellow, whose answer to most things is “tip top”. It isn’t long before the others are mimicking him.

Despite some good lines early on, the delivery often seemed to fall flat. I was really struck by the lack of laughter from the studio audience at times when I did feel it was due, or moments that certainly could have gained bigger laughs. The script wasn’t the best thing I’ve heard but it was far from the worst either. There were lines that could have been emphasised more, some pauses in better places, more expressions exchanged between the characters – it was frustrating that I found the programme fairly boring when I think small changes would have made a big difference.

 

Gardeners’ World
BBC-2

 

My dad watched Gardeners’ World when I was a child and I had little interest but it was always something I vaguely remember being there in the background. The show is still running and has been broadcast since 1968. The edition I watched was actually from slightly later in 1980. I’d really wanted to see the early editions to discover whether they would have all been on location in a garden, or if they would have brought plants inside and conducted some of it in a studio for ease of filming.

By 1980, location filming is a lot easier and more affordable and we spend this entire episode cutting between a few different presenters in an actual garden. There is plenty for budding gardeners to learn, with the show providing ideas for gardens of various sizes. While I liked the hands-on presenting style overall, there were some parts that seemed a bit too scripted and I preferred those that came across more naturally.

 

Starsky and Hutch ‘Bust Amboy’
BBC-1

For several years people have been telling me to watch Starsky and Hutch so I was hoping it would be right up my street. As the funky title music accompanied shots of cars screeching round corners and our two leads running about with guns, dragging villains out, I began to feel we would get on.

In ‘Bust Amboy’ the two American cops are after a big drug dealer, who has no qualms selling to kids and encouraging young girls into prostitution to fund their heroin addiction. This is a rather dark and serious plotline and I found it jarring because most of the show has a light atmosphere. The Radio Times‘ synopsis of ‘Tough and rough – but likeable and friendly’ fits, but I actually didn’t find Starsky and Hutch all that rough. This isn’t The Sweeney – while there are some top car chases, no one is getting the complete crap knocked out of them, no one is swilling whisky between interrogations, and overall the two Americans just seem more clean cut. The villains may be talked about as real hard cases but we don’t really see it. This lightness is one reason why there is a lot more banter than in The Sweeney, something that would cross to Britain in The Professionals. As I mentioned when watching The Professionals in 1978, having the two men at the same level of seniority enables this. It provides more of a friendship on screen that works well for bouncing humour off each other. It’s interesting that the original UK broadcast and this repeat both went out after 9pm but by the time of its next showing in 1990, it was deemed suitable enough for a mid-afternoon slot.

Starsky and Hutch certainly seem like more suitable children’s action heroes than Regan and Carter. They aren’t depicted as heavy drinkers and the violence sways more towards cartoonish. I mentioned the amount of smoking in The Sandbaggers but there is hardly any in this Starsky and Hutch episode that was made several years earlier. In fact, I think the only character seen to smoke is the central villain – an interesting characteristic to include at this time and one I’ve spotted in more modern programmes. I’d be curious whether it is repeated across the series at all.

I checked that this was a repeat because the presence of flares had stood out to me. This was slightly easier to put aside than the characters’ car though. Their bright red Ford Gran Torino has white stripes down the side and looks awesome. However, it does make them fairly easy to track down and at one point they return to it to find a couple of bad guys waiting for them. Despite this demonstrable flaw, they later sit in it while staking out a house from across the road in broad daylight. This clearly set a precedence. If the viewing public could accept that two coppers didn’t have access to a suitable, subtle police pool car, in a few years time they would readily accept that several men, while wanted by the government, could survive as soldiers of fortune and travel around the country in a large, extremely distinctive, black and red van in The A-Team.

26th July
Telford’s Change ‘Shot By Both Sides’
BBC-1

 

A drama seemingly based around the life of a bank manager was not particularly gripping, but I was surprised that I did like some of Telford’s Change and a lot more as it went on.

Telford is a middle-aged bank manager who has moved from the family home to take up a new position as a branch manager. It means he is currently living separately from his wife and teenage son.

Initially I found all I had to interest me was the goings on at the bank and the episode really did stretch my levels of interest in the day-to-day issues of transferring a customer’s current account. Telford makes some comments about one of the female employees who happens to be going out with one of the young male ones. He comes across as somewhat old-fashioned, which I suppose is fairly acceptable for a bank manager in his, I would guess, fifties.

At one point he describes the woman as a “career lady”, with negative connotations. Yet the young man shows him up a tad, saying that’s just what he wants in a partner: “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life going home to listen to my wife’s account of shopping in the high street or a blow-by-blow description of the washing.” It’s fantastic to see this kind of representation. It should be obvious by now that not all women are content to spend their time as housewives, but hearing it from a male character, in terms where he wants his partner to do well and have similar interests, in a programme written by a male writer, feels a good step. There is a nice moment when the two of them are chatting about their futures later and he ponders, “So what happens when the bank decides that one of us should be promoted?” She responds, “Well I’ll ask if you can come too.”

It is clear that there have been problems between Telford and his wife, Sylvia. They have a very stilted phone conversation early on in the episode and their teenage son has picked up on the tension between them. He visits his dad to try to talk about things and ensures he makes himself scarce at home so his parents can talk alone. I really feel for him as he can see things disintegrating around him while there is nothing much he can do to fix it.

Sylvia has an affair and it is presented so interestingly. She has been interested in the gentleman for some time and seeks approval from a friend before she decides to make their relationship physical. It’s done so sympathetically. It doesn’t come across as a scandalous affair and breakup between the married couple. Instead, it is just quite sad watching two people who once loved each other, and clearly still care for one another, but appear to have moved apart. They are living such separate lives.

Watching an episode partway through the series makes it hard to judge, but I get the impression that things have not been good for a while. Have they tried to improve things? Have they been talking? Or have they both been happy to just drift apart? As the episode went on I found it was not really a show about a bank manager’s life but a show about lives where one of them happened to be a bank manager.

Sylvia’s lover is played by Keith Barron and I strained to think where I recognised him from. Well, take your pick. It could be Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Doctor Who‘s ‘Enlightenment’, Minder or a whole host of other things.

28th July
The Sandbaggers ‘Opposite Numbers’
Yorkshire

As with numerous series that I have loved, I was sad to come to the end of The Sandbaggers. From what I have read up, I knew we wouldn’t be getting a definite ending to the series. It had been created by Ian MacKintosh, a former Royal Navy officer who is rumoured to have had connections with the intelligence services. He was in a plane that disappeared in 1979 and as the production team didn’t want to continue without his involvement, 1980’s third series became the last.

This series undertook some filming on location in Malta, which would be spread across episodes. I was really surprised as this seems quite exotic. The only other Back in Time For TV programme I think I’ve encountered abroad is The Persuaders! For such an unglamorous programme as The Sandbaggers, it’s an even more surprising decision. However, after a couple of series trying to make various parts of England pass for a variety of countries behind the Iron Curtain, it is nice to see an actual foreign location.

In a light, beige three-piece suit, Burnside looks exactly how I would imagine a British civil servant abroad. Both he, Caine and the other Sandbagger, Wallace, stand out a bit when fully clothed around the hotel. Someone invites Caine and Wallace to remove their jackets by the pool, but the former points out this wouldn’t be advisable as the jackets are hiding their guns.

There is a conference taking place in Malta, with the Sandbaggers providing security. At first this seems a tad below these highly trained agents, but as we’ve seen a high profile kidnap take place abroad in a previous episode, perhaps the British government can be forgiven for having become overcautious.

The Russians are attending and the British are hoping the conference will enable disarmament agreements to be made. It’s a reminder that we are still a long, long way off the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Burnside doesn’t believe the USSR will keep any promises and the conference outcomes could be an excuse to find ways for the UK to make defence cuts. He wonders if he’s old-fashioned for being patriotic, standing for the national anthem, and wanting girls to have long hair and wear dresses. Even if I am looking back from almost 40 years in the future, on the cusp of the 1980s, I think these ideas would certainly have seemed old-fashioned to an increasing number of people. His last point on “girls” jars immensely for me. Despite the progress that had been made for equality (evident in Telford’s Change) , women are still often seen in traditional roles; in this third series the only recurring female characters have both been in secretarial roles.

Although Burnside has run rogue missions before, arranging the defection of a Soviet double agent is a brave move but he goes ahead, hoping it will force them to pull out of the conference. His visit to Malta is a rare chance to see him in the field, as this is usually reserved for the Sandbaggers. There is a great deal of lying and scheming, which Caine and Wallace support him in throughout, demonstrating the tight-knit unit that they are. Ruminating on events with Caine, Burnside knows he has put his career on the line and reckons Caine would be a shoe-in as the next Director of Operations if he went. Yet Caine isn’t enthusiastic and shows a lot of loyalty. He and Burnside have “been together for six years” and he says, “It wouldn’t be the same without you.” Interestingly, this isn’t something lost on the Deputy Director, Peele, who knows if Burnside was sacked, Caine would leave too.

Caine also doesn’t think he would have a chance anyway, remarking, “I haven’t got the right class.” Burnside then reveals to the audience that both he and Caine went to grammar schools. Unfortunately, Caine’s assumptions seem true based on the rest of the series. Whitehall is depicted as full of upper class men who conduct business in their clubs with people they can play squash with.

I’ve always enjoyed Burnside’s conversations with Ross and found them particularly interesting in ‘Opposite Numbers’. Ross suggests that Burnside has been acting self-destructively and his plan to disrupt the conference is part of this. Up until the previous episode when Burnside got beaten up, I hadn’t considered this idea. Yet on reflection, after an initial build up during The Sandbaggers’ first series, I can see now how we may have been heading towards this. It’s very hard to say more without spoiling anything and because I love The Sandbaggers quite a lot, I hope more people will go on to explore it from the beginning.

I felt this was certainly a good enough episode for the show to end on, with uncertainty right up to the end, which took my breath away. There is plenty left open for another series. I have been really impressed with how the characters have developed, some rather subtly. I haven’t particularly seen much evidence of that in earlier shows, and have previously ruminated on the fact that with both positive and negative results, many dramas I’ve watched have been pretty self-contained from episode to episode. Yet you can still appreciate aspects of The Sandbaggers without needing to have watched every single episode.

For those who wanted more Sandbaggers (and I have), home video was still emerging so your best bet would be a tie-in novel. There were two published for The Sandbaggers. Having read the first, I know it covers the events of several episodes from the first series. Written by Ian MacKintosh, I enjoyed his style and while it was rather short, it would have been most viewers only way of reliving the series.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Rodney Spafford-Crisps 5 September 2019 at 4:27 am

“Very little actually happens”

This is a very accurate summary of all 31 seasons of this show (Last of the Summer Wine).

“The Sandbaggers” was indeed an excellent drama series from Yorkshire TV.

Both Ian Mackintosh and his girlfriend Susan Insole were present on the plane that wen missing between Anchorage and Kodiak on July 7th, 1979. Despite an intensive three days search, and still to this day, no wreckage has ever been found. According to one website, when Mackintosh’s former father-in-law, an admiral in the Royal Navy, tried to make inquiries into the plane’s disappearance, he was told to stop asking questions about the matter.

There is a tenuous parallel to one episode of the show when the parents of a dead operatives are told the fiction that he had died on a test flight of some new secret aircraft which must never be mentioned in public rather than having being shot dead (as a
“mercy” killing) by one of The Sandbaggers.

AndrewP 5 September 2019 at 8:20 am

It’s great knowing that you’ve discovered so many new shows during your time travelling – there’s really good and bad to be seen in each decade, and the only way to find out which and which is doing precisely what you’re doing and jumping into it to find out what’s there.

Wonderful seeing the ongoing affection for “The Sandbaggers” – it really is brilliant. And, yes, Burnside does a lot of nasty stuff.

Very interesting to get your views on “Dallas” – particularly regarding the blurring of the drama/soap opera line. I similarly find “Hill Street Blues” fascinating as a police procedural, but one that’s a series of intertwined storylines which tell a larger story.

“Last of the Summer Wine” is something which I must return to when I get chance. I watched a lot of the earlier ones and then dipped in and out in the later decades. My favourite was the Christmas 1983 film based on Roy Clarke’s novel; it’s quite dark in tone and counterpoints the gentle geriatric comedy with some very poignant material. “I Didn’t Know You Cared” I saw less of and it’s something I’d like to return to and see if my reaction to it has changed.

Great to read about your reactions to “Telford Change” – a show which I didn’t see much of at the time but which I know was very big. I’m afraid that I was busy watching “Return of the Saint”…

Good point about how overseas location filming stands out on things like “The Sandbaggers”. I’m generally impressed now when I do see it in 1960s and 1970s videotape series. The “Mogul” episodes we’ve seen were rather good in this respect – similarly “Warship” (although a lot of what sells it is the playing with Royal Navy hardware in the Med).

Thanks again – a great read!

All the best

Andrew

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